Don Easterbrook’s Academic Dishonesty

By Gareth Renowden 15/01/2011

As Don Easterbrook has shown no signs of withdrawing his article claiming that most of the last 10,000 years were warmer than present, and as his university has shown no appetite for addressing the issue, Professor Scott Mandia of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team and I decided to write to the local press. The letter below was sent to The Bellingham Herald (local newspaper) and to Western Front Online (Western Washington University newspaper) on Monday January 9, 2011. Scott also called and left a message with the Bellingham Herald News Editor. He did not hear back from either newspaper, so we’re reprinting the letter in full here and at Scott’s blog.

Sir or Madam,

Don Easterbrook, a Professor Emeritus at Western Washington University has been promoting his belief that natural cycles of the sun and oceans are going to cause global cooling over the next few decades and this will offset the CO2-caused warming headed our way. In 2001, he announced that global cooling was about to begin and would last for the next 25 years. Of course, the previous decade was the warmest in over 150 years and 2010 is likely to be the warmest or second warmest year in that period. Easterbrook wants to persuade us to ignore global warming despite the fact that most of his peers, climate scientists, military and intelligence experts, health officials, and insurance companies expect major societal disruptions due to the current and expected human-caused climate disruption.

It is ok to be wrong. Science cannot prove an idea is true but only that it is false. Correcting mistakes is how science moves forward. But Easterbrook is not just wrong, he is playing fast and loose with the data. He was caught red-handed using a doctored graph in a 2007 conference (see and in subsequent articles and talks. Easterbrook not only edited these graphics to change the information they contained, but did so in order to minimize the evidence of recent global warming. This is, at the very least, academic malpractice. More recently (12/28/10) he incorrectly labeled a graph of temperatures for the previous 10,000 years to claim that most of these years were warmer than present. His ’current temperature’ was really 1855 and not the much warmer present day. He was notified of his mistake but refuses to issue a retraction (see A good scientist corrects and learns from mistakes, but this seems foreign to Easterbrook.

WWU officials were notified of Easterbrook’s doctoring of data last May and again this January but have so far chosen to do nothing. Academic freedom must be cherished and defended but dishonesty should never be condoned — whether at WWU or any other institution of higher education.

Scott Mandia and Gareth Renowden

Bios: Scott Mandia is a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, New York and has been teaching meteorology and climatology courses for 23 years.

Gareth Renowden is an NZ-based science writer and blogger, author of Hot Topic — Global Warming & The Future of New Zealand. He has written extensively on Easterbrook’s cavalier approach to climate data.